Learning the Hard Way
Have you ever sent an email, text, or some other message you wished you could take back right after pushing “send”? A few months after college graduation I was getting my hair cut in Breckenridge, Colorado. The lady cutting my hair noticed I was reading The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Leslie Newbigin.
Figuring I might know a little about theology, she asked if I could explain why there was so much evil in the world. Since I had just taken a class on apologetics, I decided to tell her everything I knew about why God might allow evil. Every time she had a question, I had a quick retort.
From my perspective, the conversation was going great. But all of a sudden she started crying and said, “This is a bunch of &$%! You have an answer for everything. It can’t be that easy.” I was completely taken aback. This made me a bit nervous, especially since she was holding scissors next to my head!
I've thought of this conversation many times and have wished I could take back what I said. The problem was not what I said, but how I said it. As my college professors used to say, over 90% of communication is nonverbal. We communicate much more with our body posture and tone than with our words. Obviously, I was not communicating the grace and love her question deserved. I cringe to think about how she views Christians because of her experience with me.
I’ve often wondered why she asked me about the problem of evil in the first place. I assumed it was simply an intellectual question, but it very well could have been an emotional issue she personally had to deal with (I’ve found this is often the case when people ask about evil and suffering). Had she been abused as a child? Did she have some “Christian” friends who betrayed her? Was she experiencing a debilitating sickness? Who knows?
In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter tells us to always have an answer for the hope within. As Christians, we do need to be ready to provide answers for tough questions such as the problem of evil. But Peter also tells us to present our case with gentleness and respect. If we have all the answers but lack love, our efforts are worthless (1 Corinthians 13). I’ve you’ve made mistakes in sharing your faith as I have, then learn from your mistakes and move on. There is a hurting and lost world that needs the love and truth of Jesus.